Family Worshipby Donald Whitney
Length: Approximately 2 hours. To read (75 pages).
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There is something major missing from most Christian homes in the world today. The art of family worship seen in many Christian homes a hundred years ago is rarely seen anymore. In his short book Family Worship, Donald S. Whitney provides an argument for implementing family worship in your home, and provides practical tips in how to make this a daily part of every Christian home. It is highly practical for all faith-based homes and deeply persuasive in arguing for family worship from God’s Word and history.
Who should read this?
There is such a desperate need for more daily family connection spiritually in the homes today. This book would be a great read for all Christian parents, no matter where they are in spectrum of family worship in the home. Also, it would be highly recommended for pastors to read this book and use it as a resource for the parents in their flock. All Christians I believe could get great benefit from reading this book.
How much impact would come from all Christian homes having regular worship sessions as a family? Donald S. Whitney in his book Family Worship would argue that there would be exponentially more spiritual growth if there would be more families participating in this daily. His goal in this book is to move us from the “we should” to the “we can and do.”
In the introduction Whitney lays out for the reader a remedy to giving families more connection time together. The family is in trouble and the author argues the answer is finding connection spiritually through family worship as the answer. One poignant quote here is, “Having your family in a Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, Bible-teaching local church is crucial to Christian parenting” (14).
Whitney’s first argument for family worship comes from our main authority as believers in Christ: God’s Word. His first statement of this chapter sums up the argument. “While there is no direct, explicit commandment in Scripture about family worship, the Bible clearly implies that God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families” (15). The author persuades through several different biblical characters and their implied use of family worship to build up their own families.
Some of the characters he uses include Abraham, Joshua, Job from the Old Testament, and Paul and Peter from the New Testament. A couple of highlights of this biblical mandate for family worship include Moses’ passage from Deut. 6 on sharing the things of God with your children daily. Also, when speaking of Asaph from Psalms 78, we see one of the great challenges from Scripture of the parents being the spiritual leaders of their home.
Whitney’s second argument for regular family worship comes from church history. Again, he takes several different characters across the history of the church and provides examples of family worship being practiced. He pulls all the way back from Tertullian in the 3rd century, also looking at church history men such as Martin Luther, Richard Baxter, and more recently John Piper.
All of these men have contributed greatly to their own families by for years practicing home worship services. From the 4th century John Chrysostom, “urged that every house should be church, and every head of a family a spiritual shepherd remembering the account he must give even for his children” (30). One impactful moment from this chapter was Bethan Lloyd-Jones, wife of Martin Lloyd- Jones sharing her greatest grief from his death was missing the family worship time.
Donald Whitney then shifts gears and gives practical elements and tips to the reader about the art of family worship. He shares the main elements that are effective to use in your own households. Bible reading is always the foundation and beginning for family worship. The author says, “It is the Word of God- read it to the best of your ability” (45). Prayer he argues is another great aspect of families worshipping together.
He shares personally how praying through Scripture has helped his family. Whitney lastly talks about music worship as a main element. This can look different for every family, but is an important element. A few of the lesser elements time permitting he discusses include: Scripture memory, reading other books outside of the Bible, and catechizing. He ends this section with a few helpful hints about forming family worship in your family. It is important to have brevity, be regular, and have some flexibility.
The writer quickly shares how to overcome some of the barriers to regular family worship. One major issue is the lack of a father or a Christ following father. Whitney offers some ways to overcome this barrier through the mother.
He also addresses issues about ages of the children, and not having children at all. One great argument he makes to help us avoid this trap is the regular routine this creates for children from a young age. He shares “Through discipline and patience, you’ll establish a treasured tradition for your family which may continue for generations” (55).
The author closes the book by helping the reader to begin today with family worship in their home. He begins this section asking leading questions about the positive impact that starting this discipline will have. The first question sets the table, “What better way to speak the gospel into your children’s lives every day” (58). Donald Whitney also gives examples of the resolve of men to lead their families.
He finishes this section by challenging husbands and fathers to be resolved to lead their families spiritually. He challenges them this way, “The same Father who gave you the gospel and who drew you to Christ will strengthen you by his Spirit to put on this badge of godly manhood” (65). How can the husband and father show this resolve?
He does so by remembering the gospel message that has saved us from our sins. “But blessed is the family where the good news of what God has done through Jesus Christ is declared and discussed, day after day, generation after generation” (67).
Many different reasons and solutions have been given for the breaking down of the family in our world today. Everything from lack of a father figure to the busyness of families is constantly presented. Many of these are valid and proven, but what about for the Christian family? With directness and great pastoral care Donald Whitney presents in Family Worship the greatest need. It is for Christian families to bring more connection in the family by having regular worship together as a family.
One of the great aspects of this book is the great evidence from God’s Word for the necessity of family worship. He presents a great case from many different biblical characters lives that this was happening regularly in Christ-following homes in the past. One of the great stories is of Joshua who shares in Joshua 24:15, “But for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
With congregational services not prevalent during this time, it had to happen as a family in the home. The biblical evidence from Psalms 78 and Deuteronomy 6:4-8 also helps make a strong case for regular family worship. He certainly didn’t need to sell me on this being important for our family, but this biblical evidence really helps me present this important practice in my current ministry setting.
Another strong point of this book is how with pastoral care, Dr. Whitney presents such practical tools that can help any Christian family with their worship time in the home. The author practices what he preaches, and has many years of pastoral experience to know how to teach the practice of family worship to us.
Answering even important questions that can hinder us from making family worship a part of our families lives, shows his pastoral care for dealing with family worship. The question about family worship and young kids was very vital to my perseverance with this practice, despite some daily difficult challenges my wife and I face. It is truly remarkable how practical this book is and how it can be helpful to any Christian family.
Lastly, a very impactful chapter in the book is the one at the end admonishing and challenging us to make family worship a vital part of our family’s daily routine. Being a husband and father myself the challenges for father’s to lead his children spiritually were the most impactful.
The admonition of this chapter is to be resolved through the message of the Gospel to provide spiritual leadership for your wife and children God has blessed us with. There are several excuses we can make for not making this a priority, but the necessity of this comes from what is at stake. We are to trust our family’s salvation and spiritual growth to the Lord, but we can play a major part in bringing the good news of Jesus Christ deeper into our families’ hearts through routinely having family worship.
In an effort to allow for accessibility and usability one of the drawbacks is there is more that could be said on this topic. It would be better to have a little more on the practical parts of actually putting it into practice. Many Christian families don’t even know how to begin this process. So having a little more structured talk on these things would help all the readers.
It is always hard to find a balance of being accessible and covering the topics. I think Dr. Whitney needs to write a longer version of this book to help many Christians on a deeper level with family worship.
The other noticeable drawback I would see in this book is the reliance on implication for the defense of family worship. I do believe there is truly good evidence for the need of family worship regularly in the home. However, some of the illustrations he uses from biblical characters and church history rely solely on implication and not on actual visible proof.
A few of the cases stretch the implications a little too far. You have to admit that it is hard to fine a definitive passage on family worship in the Bible, but some of the cases used here were stretches.
Overall, I would highly recommend this for those especially in Christian homes with spouses and kids. We need the challenge and reminder to make our homes the center of spiritual growth. Donald Whitney has done an excellent job presenting a defense of family worship, and with great pastoral leadership showing us how it can be done to the glory of God’s name.
How can we find hope for the disconnected family we see all around us today? Being a part of the solution to this major crisis of our culture, means challenging ourselves to make our homes the center of spiritual growth for us personally, our spouses, and our children. This isn’t an easy task, but Donald Whitney shows us in this work Family Worship how we can be part of the solution in bringing spiritual connection into our homes daily.
By the power of the Gospel, through the Spirit’s leading, and regularly meeting together as a family in worship we too can address this problem day by day for God’s glory.
“Having your family in a Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, Bible-teaching local church is crucial to Christian parenting. But it is not enough for conveying to your family all you want to teach them about God and your beliefs.” (14)
“Consistent, father-led family worship is one of the best, steadiest, and most easily measurable ways to bring up children in the Lord’s “discipline” and “instruction.” (25)
Jonathan Edwards Quote- “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.” (43)
“So, what should we do in family worship? It’s simple: read the Bible, pray together, and sing to the Lord.” (47)
“The worthiness of God to receive your family’s worship each day is reason enough to start practicing family worship today.” (58)